Former Brazilian President Da Silva Is in Police Custody

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has been ordered to serve a prison sentence, surrendered to police Saturday, one day after starting a standoff with police, who were ordered to arrest him. 

Da Silva left a metalworkers union building, where he had sought refuge, surrounded by several bodyguards. Earlier, his supporters had tried to block him from leaving.

He then entered a police car and was taken to a Sao Paolo police station. Later, he was to be flown to the city of Curitiba, where Brazil’s anti-corruption investigation is based.

In his first speech since the arrest order was issued Thursday, Da Silva told supporters Friday that he was innocent and had been targeted to prevent him from running for president again in October. 

Da Silva was to begin serving the 12-year prison sentence Friday on a bribery conviction, but he instead went to the union building in a suburb of Sao Paulo, where years earlier he had launched his career as a labor leader.

Da Silva’s lawyers filed an injunction late Friday with the Supreme Court to suspend the sentence after losing an argument in the country’s second-highest court that they had not exhausted procedural appeals.

The sentence will probably end the political career of Brazil’s first working-class president. Brazilian law prohibits a candidate from running for office for eight years after a criminal conviction. There have been rare exceptions, however, and a final decision would be made by the highest electoral court if he officially files to be a candidate. 

Da Silva’s mass appeal propelled him to two terms as president between 2003 and 2011, a period of strong economic growth and diminishing inequality. When he left office, his approval rating was 83 percent.